Wearing Digital Shimmers: A fashion-centric approach to wearable technology

This paper describes an approach to designing wearable technology that sees and uses the technology expressively in terms of fashion, and minimizes the notion of its technological function. We do this by presenting an account of the research-through-design project Phem, a fashion brand concept for garments constructed with surface-changing, animated fabrics by way of augmented reality.

Phem consists of five outfits paired with varying ‘digital shimmers’ (discrete animated videos) presented through a short fashion film. The fashion film, which is a commonly used artefact of the fashion field, traditionally aims to synthesize a particular mood and style for its garments. In this case, the film also acts as a space for design inquiry where the temporal form of the digital shimmers can ‘play-out’ over time, on a particular body, and within a particular context.

Furthermore, in ‘doing fashion’ and letting expressivity be the guiding concern, we discuss how this approach differs from a prevalent technology-driven approach, and our deliberate attempt to avoid a futuristic aesthetic that dominates the field of wearables.